Mysterious deaths still under investigation.
New Mexico game officials are trying to figure out what killed more than 100 elk within 24 hours last week on a private ranch.
The elk weren’t shot or struck by lightning. Tests have ruled out poisonous plants, seeds and anthrax, a bacteria that can hide dormant for years in soil.
The cause of the die-off could still be a virus or something in the ranch’s water tanks.
Ultimately, this is a mystery that might never be solved. “It is possible we won’t have a definitive answer,” said Kerry Mower, wildlife disease specialist with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
The elk death mystery has some hunters worried.
Anthrax has been ruled out. It is the biggest mass death of elk in the state that the officials have seen. But no other herds have been affected. So far. Previous elk deaths have been linked to poisonous lichen. Drought and heat stress may be contributors but to all die at once? Strange.
Pond scum — the bluish-green algae that blooms naturally in warm, standing water — killed more than 100 elk in late August on a private northeastern New Mexico ranch, according to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
Traces of Anabaena, one type of blue-green algae that can produce a deadly but short-lived neurotoxin, anatoxin-a, was found in a water sample from a fiberglass livestock tank near where the elk died.
Anatoxin-a can sicken or kill an animal within four to 12 hours after it has been ingested. It appeared the elk had struggled on the ground, also a symptom of neurotoxin poisoning.
No humans have died from this algae toxin but it has been noted to kill cattle and dogs who ingest it.
No one should panic over the toxin. It was an isolated event.